If you asked me what I got in my high school Chemistry class, I would tell you, 'An A and two C's!' Why? Not because I took the class three times, but because I got the A and my two friends, who I let cheat off my homework and tests, got the two C's! Unfortunately, when I was in high school, even though the teachers told us not to cheat, it wasn't a big deal. I didn't understand how my choices in school affected my relationship with Jesus.
That is what's so dangerous about cheating … it doesn't seem like a problem!
Let’s first clarify that cheating is wrong. Let me point out why that is. Can you guess where in the Catechism and the YOUCAT we find cheating? Would you believe it’s under the Seventh Commandment? That’s the one that says, “Thou shalt not steal.” That's right, cheating falls under stealing! Let me say that again – cheating is stealing!
So what exactly does the YOUCAT say? Question 429 is talking about intellectual property, which is everything we learn in school.
Q. 429 … What rules apply to intellectual property?
The misappropriation of intellectual property is theft also. Not just plagiarism is theft. The theft of intellectual property begins with copying other student's work in school … and extends to business dealings in stolen concepts and ideas.
When I was a student I never understood that a “simple” thing like letting my friends copy my homework or answers from my test was wrong, and I definitely didn't see it as stealing. It’s funny because since my cheating days, I’ve become a high school teacher. So now I see things from the other side of the room. I see how important the “simple” act of learning something is, and how much work it takes me as a teacher to get my students to learn those important things.
So, one more time … why shouldn't you copy off your friends homework right before class is starting? Let's look again at the Seventh Commandment and what is says about work and why stealing is wrong. CCC 2427 is this awesome paragraph about how important and amazing human work is:
'Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive … Man shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish.'
This is saying that all of your work, even your homework, is part of your participation in Christ … His life, and especially His death. Each time that I let my friends copy from my paper I was making it so that they didn't have to work. So while they had something to give the teacher, they had nothing to give Jesus.
So, the questions for you is – what's more important, just making sure that you have something to hand into the teacher or actually working so as to have the knowledge and something to offer back to Jesus?